Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Not-So-Grand List of Overused Fantasy Clichés

Like the Fantasy Novelists Exam and Grand list of overused science fiction clichés and The Grand List of Console Role Playing Game Cliches here is:

The Not-So-Grand List of Overused Fantasy Clichés
by Teresa Dietzinger (and contributors)
"Inspired by John Van Sickle's Grand list of Overused Science Fiction Clichés, which is a writer's guide to ideas and plot devices in Science Fiction which might have been a good idea at one point but, to quote Van Sickle, "have become hackneyed from overuse by the unimaginative," unquote. I have sought to create a similar list for ideas and plot devices pertaining specifically to the Fantasy genre, (although I have decided I will not rate the cliches or try to categorize them. Suffice to say, this is simply a list of characterizations, ideas, and plot elements which have a tendency to crop up in Fantasy Fiction on a continual basis.)"

Overused Settings and Storylines
  1. THE Fantasy Cliché - Hero starts off as a farm boy/servant/shepherd etc., has his family killed (which turns out not to be his actual family), and, through a process of self-realization and learning, becomes the all-powerful prophesied hero.
  2. A brave hero steals from the rich and gives to the poor.
  3. A brave hero steals from the rich and keeps it for himself.
  4. A brave hero incites a slave revolt just by defeating an opponent or opponents in a feat of gladiatorial combat.
  5. A brave hero incites a revolution by foiling a single well-attended public execution.
  6. The old sage helping the hero develop his skills so he can defeat the bad guys:
    • is killed by the bad guys before the hero's eyes, thus inciting the hero to try even harder to defeat them.
      OR
    • turns out to be an an even worse bad guy who is only using the hero as a pawn against his rivals (and who plans to get rid of the hero once he's served his purpose of defeating said rivals.)
  7. A band of heroes travels to various and sundry distant lands searching for the pieces to a key or to a device which will help them defeat the bad guys. After months of continuous trials and tribulations, they finally succeed in finding it and assembling it together, only to have it stolen from them by the bad guys who were smart enough to sit on their arses and wait for the heroes to do all the hard work for them. (Suckers!)
  8. A hero/heroine is called upon to take the place of a recently kidnapped member of royalty to whom they bear a conveniently uncanny resemblance.
    (Corollary: No matter how different the impostor might be in terms of background and personality, he/she will have no trouble impersonating the member of royalty. For some reason, their resemblance will be even MORE uncanny if the person they're impersonating is of the opposite gender. (This is known as The Makoto Effect).
  9. A pantheon of gods gets together and decides to play "chess" (or Risk, or Monopoly or whatever) with human beings as tokens.
  10. It has been prophesied that a certain baby born with a certain birthmark is destined to destroy the villain when it grows up. Said baby is then whisked away to the forest to safety where it is raised to strapping young adulthood by:
    • wolves
    • little folk
    • fairies
    • a curmudgeonly, yet endearing old hermit.
      OR
    • the baby is placed in a basket and sent floating down a river where it's found and raised to strapping young adulthood by:
    • a female member of the villain's family
    • a kindly, old, childless peasant couple
  11. The hero's best friend is a member of the alien/magical race currently oppressing humanity, thereby making him and his friend the target of racism and prejudice.
  12. An immortal being falls in love with a mortal and elects to give up his/her immortality so the two of them can live together.
  13. The story takes place in an advanced society where spaceships and high technology reign, but where people inexplicably dress in costume from ancient eras (Roman togas, medieval gowns and armor, 18th century coats and cravats, etc.)
  14. A fortuneteller:
    • tells the hero that something awful will happen, and sometimes, even how to prevent it, but the hero disregards the advice,
    • a decision he later comes to regret.
    • tells the hero that something awful will happen and despite the elaborate steps the hero takes to prevent this awful thing from happening, it happens anyway.
    • will give the hero a prophecy that's deliberately vague and convoluted, knowing full well that it will cause him to follow a certain course of action (which the fortuneteller secretly wants him to pursue.)
  15. A marriage is arranged between a prince and a princess, for political purposes. Both the prince and princess refuse the match but are later sent on a journey/adventure together, during the course of which they fall in love and eventually come to wonder how they could ever have refused the marriage in the first place.
  16. The plot revolves around the fact that the villain is after a certain piece of jewelry that the hero owns. (Usually some kind of pendant that possesses some magical power.)
  17. An individual from the 20th century, (a Connecticut Yankee, an Astronaut, an Annoyingly Cute Kid from the Cosby Show) travels back in time to King Arthur's Court where he/she finds everyone able to speak perfectly intelligible English and where he/she is able to wow the locals by:
    • performing music that is contemporary to the date the movie/TV show was made
      OR
    • by showing off high-tech 20th century doodads like safety pins, firearms, skateboards, and snacks.
  18. A hero/heroine visits a museum or an archeological dig where they get bonked on the head and find themselves waking up in the past. While there, the hero/heroine experiences a grand adventure, at the end of which, they get bonked on the head again. When they wake up this time, they find themselves back home in the future, with the impression in their mind that their grand adventure was all a dream. HOWEVER (in a farm-fresh, Rod Serling-esque plot twist), they soon stumble upon something at the museum/archeological dig (a scene from an ancient cave painting featuring their portrait, or a suit of armor with a bullet hole in it), which convinces them that maybe they weren't dreaming after all.
  19. Poor/low social class Hero falls madly in love with princess/high social class girl. Princess/high social class girl's overly protective father finds out and attempts to kill hero but is:
    • swayed by the girl at the last possible moment
    • robbed of killing the hero by sheer chance
    • the girl gets in the way and he accidentally stabs her instead. (Oops!)
  20. Girl is held captive by evil dragon who finds her entertaining, thus saving her from becoming crispy fried.
  21. Hero finally gets a chance to beat arch-rival senseless, only to find that arch-rival has become insane/impoverished/lonely/dejected and generally not worth beating...
  22. Evil Dragon turns good and befriends heroes, just in time for the "savior" of the heroes to come and kill it dead bug.
  23. Talking magical object utterly bamboozles hero, in a world where talking magical objects are completely the norm.
  24. Hero finds magical weapon, and is told never to use it, ever. Hero accidentally uses weapon when hero, trusty sidekick (probably either the tone deaf bard or the honorable thief), or lover is in mortal peril.
  25. Hero sets off on a quest to find something or someone, only to find at the end he had it/them with him the whole time. (D'oh!)
  26. Heroine falls in love with guy A, then out of love with guy A and into love with guy B. Guy B dies, Distraught Heroine marries guy A. Theme of unrequited/thwarted love.
  27. Evil Emperor's beautiful daughter falls in love with the hero.
  28. Evil Emperor's homely daughter feels compassion for his captives and sets them all free.
  29. Hero/Heroine is trying to learn a new move/spell/secret at the beginning of film/episode, but has failed at every attempt. Somehow (be it the power of love, truth or the ol' chestnut- faith in ones abilities) said Hero/Heroine manages to pull it off and defeat the creature/villain who could only be killed by that one move/spell/secret.
  30. Evil doers with multi uber awesome powers always come unstuck when a newbie hero/heroine turns up with one super lame attack all powered by (you guessed it) LOVE! (Known as the Pretty Sammy effect.)

Overused Characterizations
  1. The princess in the story is:
    • a damsel in distress who constantly needs rescuing.
    • a selfish snob who sees the error of her ways after mingling with the hero and the "common people" for a while.
    • a tomboy who prefers trousers to skirts and who constantly has to tell the hero she can take care of herself (even if it's bloody well obvious she can't).
  2. A friar or clergyman is lecherous, has a potty mouth, or is in any other way notoriously worldly.
  3. A bounty hunter/mercenary hired by the villains to dispatch the hero, turns out to be more interested in honor and/or the thrill of the fight than in the money.
  4. A plucky street urchin who befriends the good guys is eventually discovered to be an agent (albeit perhaps, a reluctant one) for the bad guys.
  5. The heroes encounter an all-female race which:
    • are Amazons or warriors, with no evidence of any agricultural activity within the community, means of commerce, construction, or craftspeople.
    • are young, big-hootered and beautiful. And, with the exception perhaps of a council of elders, there isn't a single old, fat, or ugly amazon in the bunch.
    • are led by a queen or ruler who is in the prime of her life, strikingly beautiful, and who invariably falls head over heels in love with the hero.
  6. A lute-toting bard who tags along with the heroes:
    • is useless as a fighter or as much of anything else.
    • promises to "sing great songs" about the heroes after their adventures have ended.
    • is almost completely lacking in any real musical talent whatsoever.
      AND
    • in rare cases, gets himself into trouble with a lady or with her family ("You spoony bard!")
  7. Creatures that are half-man/half-animal always look more animal than man. Creatures that are half-woman/half animal, always look more woman than animal and almost always wear little (or no) clothing and have extremely large breasts.
  8. The evil wizard is played by either Jack Palance or Christopher Lee.
  9. The hero has an American accent. The rest of the cast have English accents.
  10. Blonde princesses are good, brunette/dark-haired princesses are evil.
  11. Evil emperors:
    • crave wealth, money and power
    • dress in robes or armor, or a combination of both and tend to cover up every inch of their bodies even if the temperature is 98 degrees outside.
    • sometimes have an attraction to the heroine or to the hero's girlfriend.
  12. Evil empresses:
    • crave wealth, money and power
    • dress in leather, bikinis, or a combination of both, and tend to dress scantily even if the temperature is 20 degrees below zero outside.
    • ALWAYS have an attraction to the hero (and sometimes to the heroine or to the hero's girlfriend.)
  13. The best fighters are always men. The best healers/white magic users are always women. (I've seen many a console RPG guilty of this one.) #14
  14. The sword the hero is carrying has a blade made of pure light energy which goes VOOOM! whenever he swings it.
  15. A villain who is particularly vain or pretty receives a scar or burn on his/her face, courtesy of the hero. Said villain then dons a mask (usually) and spends a good chunk of the rest of the story sulking in a dark place, plotting his/her revenge.
  16. As a child, the hero:
    • trains hard to be a great warrior/mage/etc., though no one believes he/she can do it.
    • is destined to be a great warrior/mage/etc., and refuses to train because he/she finds it a waste of time.
  17. The hero of the story is:
    • incredibly arrogant and cocky, but can never back it up.
    • a coward who does nothing until the very end, when he gets over his fear to do one thing that accomplishes his mission, eventually being declared a hero for that one deed.
    • a great warrior, except when he is drunk, (and he is almost always drunk).
  18. A member of the group who is a child will be ignored and/or mistreated by the others, even if he/she is smarter than all the other group members combined.
  19. The hero is always either a really gorgeous guy (enabling him to capture the hearts of all the girls) or an atrociously ugly guy (enabling him to capture the hearts of all the girls, albeit through pity, his inferiority complex, and the lack of love he's received from everyone.)
  20. Clergymen who are affiliated with any kind of established church appear noble and serene, but inside are actually pompous, hypocritical, or secretly in league with the forces of evil. (Japanese RPGs are ESPECIALLY guilty of this one.)
  21. Clergymen who are NOT affiliated with any kind of established church and who are instead wandering monks and friars appear to be rude, hard-drinking, and worldly, but inside secretly have a heart of gold and are disposed to give help to the hero whenever he needs it (as well as be on hand to marry the hero to his sweetheart at the end of the movie/story.) #22
  22. The larger and more titanic the size of the heroine's breasts, the less likely they are to impede her ability to fight, run, flip backwards several times, etc.
  23. The cool, anti-hero type vampire hunter with superhuman strength turns out to be (in another brilliantly original, Serling-esque plot twist) a vampire (or half-vampire) themselves.
  24. A hero is boastful, claiming nobody is better than him. As a result more people who are able to defeat him show up in the story/series. (That's what you get for tempting the fates).
  25. If the character in the original book is female, a warrior, detests men with a passion, and a cold-hearted villainess, in the movie she'll be a bratty little plot device who falls in love with every male she comes in contact with.
  26. A Barbarian appears in the story.
    • If it's female, it will dress in a skimpy, bust-enhancing, leather costume, carry around a big sword, and will frequently insist that the only man she'll marry is one who can defeat her in a fair contest. Despite how tough she might be, she'll scream like a schoolgirl every time she encounters a rat in a dungeon.
    • If it's a male, it will dress in a leather thong and a headband (and not much else), carry around a big sword, and will, in most cases, sport a thick Austrian accent. Will have a tendency, when surprised or when rushing into battle, to shout epithets involving the names of extremely masculine-sounding gods. ("By CROM, I will defeat you!!!!")
  27. The comic relief is:
    • A cowardly yet amiable thief/pickpocket.
    • A cute (sometimes wise-cracking) animal who seems pretty annoying and useless except during those rare times when a situation calls for filching dungeon keys or for heroically sacrificing oneself in an attempt to distract the villain.
    • A tone-deaf bard. (see aforementioned comments concerning bards above).
    • A pair of lovable droids with clashing, Odd Couple-esque personalities.
    • Any animated character whose VA is Robin Williams, Dom DeLuise or Gilbert Gottfried.
    • An inept, out-of-shape, out-of-his-league, self-declared "hero" who tags along with the real heroes in the hopes of experiencing a grand adventure, (and who usually winds up instead being a pain in the ass, being eventually compromised by the villain, or just plain mucking up everyone's plans.) In rare cases, his/her ineptitude will result in his/her performing an action which, through sheer luck, will result in causing a setback for the villain (oftentimes by causing his accidental destruction).
    • Usually completely unnecessary.
  28. A dragon appears in the story. Said dragon is possessed of a sentient mind and the ability to converse in human languages fluently, (a seemingly meaningless talent for it to have, considering all the dragon wants to do with his life is to find an enormous hoard of treasure, plop his big, scaly ass down on top of it and sleep for all eternity, waking only to shoo away/eat the occasional armored knight, hobbit, or callow teen-aged hero which might come round to try and claim it).
  29. Fairies (the 6 inch tall kind) are usually:
    • scantily dressed and female
    • cute beyond all reason,
    • extremely hot-tempered
    • jealously attracted to the Hero. (The fact that he's 300 times bigger than she is and that the two of them have no hope of engaging in normal intimate relations does not appear to shake her resolve to love him one bit.)
  30. Villains dress in dark or sinister colors such as black and blood red.
  31. Wizards wear tall pointed hats and robes embroidered with moons and stars.
  32. Any character you see within the story that has a western name either has it spelt differently or is a secondary character who bears no importance whatsoever. All other proper nouns (names and places) will be completely foreign and hard to pronounce.
  33. Evil people always sound more evil and deadly with a British accent (unless it's Dick Van Dyke)
  34. Orphans become heroes.
  35. Stepmothers are evil.
  36. Villainous or dark characters are the way they are because of a tragic occurrence in their pasts.
  37. The heroine/hero is always so beautiful that everyone falls in love with him/her.

Story Events and Plot Devices
  1. A wedding takes place where the phrase "And if there's anyone present who can see why these two shouldn't be joined in marriage, speak now or forever hold your peace," is followed by a scene in which nobody holds their peace. (Corollary: It is a Universal Rule of Fantasy that the hero and his buddies, when attempting to stop a wedding between the hero's love interest and the villain, MUST choose the particular moment after that phrase is uttered, to launch their attack, even if waiting to do so puts them at a strategic disadvantage.)
  2. The all-powerful wizard/seemingly unbeatable enemy turns out to be a mischievous child or a dinky old man behind a curtain.
  3. The villain's fortress starts to crumble around our heroes the moment he is defeated, leaving our heroes just barely enough time to escape before it collapses.
  4. The overly friendly (or, in some cases, vaguely menacing) bishop or church official turns out to actually be at the head of the evil cult.
  5. The hero runs into a competent swordswoman:
    • whose great skill with the sword is matched only by the great size of her hooters
      AND WHO
    • engages him in battle (at first)
    • sleeps with him (later on)
    • sacrifices her life for him (at the end)
  6. Secondary characters who are killed in the first season of the TV series or movie are brought back to life in the sequel/next season for the flimsiest of reasons, because they were popular OR because the writers/producers of the show are too gutless to risk offending soccer moms by killing off sympathetic characters (and showing kids that, yes, sometimes evil actually wins.)
  7. The hero and his girlfriend who, although looked like they were headed down the aisle at the end of the first movie or season of the TV series are inexplicably separated or estranged at the beginning of the sequel/next season.
  8. One of the good guys falls in love with and becomes engaged to a character with no background and no previous presence in the storyline. Said character will invariably:
    • (if it's a female) get kidnapped by the bad guys, forcing the good guys to rally around the groom and help him go save her.
    • turn out to be a spy or operative for the Bad Guys.
    • turn out to be a criminal or con-artist who wants to scam the heroes out of an important item or out of their pocket change.
      In any event, the mysterious fiance turns out to be a one-shot character who, at the end of the book/episode:
    • dies
    • gets thrown in prison
    • is discovered to be already married to somebody else.
    • decides they want to get to hitched to an old flame instead of to the good guy/gal she/he's engaged to.
    • just plain up and leaves for no damn good reason.
  9. A virgin, slated for sacrifice, is rendered unsuitable for sacrificial purposes thanks to a plot contrivance which conveniently places her and the hero alone in the same area just long enough for them to have an intimate encounter.
  10. The villain turns out to be the hero's long-lost father/ brother/ uncle's cousin's sister's best friend's former roommate, etc.
  11. The hero inexplicably chooses to ride off into the sunset alone or with his buddies rather than stay behind with the hot princess he just rescued and help her rule her kingdom.
  12. The hero(es) extricate themselves from a hopelessly tricky situation by simply cutting a rope holding a chandelier. (Making sure it's the right rope first, of course, ala Robin Hood: Men in Tights.)
  13. All it takes to defeat the villain is a good dousing with a bucket of cold water. (The Sci-Fi equivalent to this Fantasy plot device would be the all-powerful superweapon that's about to destroy the world being disabled by simply pulling a plug from a wall outlet.)
  14. The villain charges towards the hero, intending to strike him down while his back in turned, but is prevented from doing do by a weapon shot/thrown by the hero's friend or ally, who just happened to conveniently arrive at that very moment.
  15. A princess rescues the hero from jail by:
    • drugging the guard(s) drinks.
    • pretending to trip and exposing her shapely legs, thereby distracting the guard(s) long enough for the hero to reach out from between the bars of his cell and klonk him/them unconscious.
  16. An executioner or a priest performing a human sacrifice is stopped from doing his job at the last second by a hero who manages to pull off a one-in-a-million, defies-all-known-laws-of-reason-and-physics shot with a ranged weapon.
  17. A catapult successfully shoots a hero over the castle battlements where he lands safely on the other side in a pile of straw, instead of ending up as a stain on the wall or with his insides spilled on the cobblestones of the courtyard pavement.
  18. The hero from the future goes back in time and uses the old "Hey, what's that over there?" trick to elude the villains, and it works because said villains come from an era in history when men were less-media savvy and more prone to believe in the sincerity of everything told to them by other people.
  19. The hero from the future goes back in time and uses the old "Hey, what's that over there?" trick to elude the villains, and it DOESN'T work because, let's face it, that old trick has been around since the days the first cavemen walked the earth. (Only then it was known as "Lookout ! There's a velociraptor headed straight for us!" Needless to say, it didn't work very well THEN, either...)
  20. An obnoxiously cute little creature that's following the heroes around sacrifices it's life for them, and at the end of the story, gets resurrected somehow. (This is usually much to the chagrin of the viewers/readers, most of whom had hated that annoying little turd from the moment it first appeared in the story and had cheered loudly when they thought it had been dispatched.)
  21. Modern (sometimes painfully modern) jokes/clichés/conventions of society, etc. are used for comedic effect.
  22. Archaic weapons are used improperly. (Or misused because it looks cool.) i.e.: A hero blocks his enemy's downstroke while crouched on the ground with his back to him, a ninja catches an arrow or stops a swinging sword with his bare hands, etc.
  23. Weapons are used which could never really work in reality the way they do in the story/series. (Not without slicing the user's fingers off. CHAKRAM *Cough!*)
  24. The most powerful member of the group (usually a wizard) refuses to use his powers unless absolutely necessary, even when doing so would have saved the group a month's journey or prevented the death of one or more of its members.
  25. The most powerful member of the group leaves at the most crucial moment and comes back to find that the group completely screwed everything up because he/she was gone.
  26. When two members of sparring kingdoms travel together, they:
    • (if they're of the same sex) become best of friends and decide to work together to unite their kingdoms.
    • (if they're of the opposite sex) become lovers and decide to marry and have children to unite their kingdoms.
  27. When a hero has a dark past/secret, it is known by:
    • the hero's parent(s)/sibling(s)/guardian(s) who took care of him since he was a child. This person reveals the secret to the hero just before he dies, leaving the hero with no one to answer the many questions this revelation brought up.
      AND
    • the villain, who is connected to the past/secret in some way.
  28. The heroes seek the help of a legendary warrior. Upon finding him, they discover him to be a washed-up, aged, curmudgeon-y old drunk who can barely stand up much less save the day.
  29. When dealing with the heroes, the villain will always forgo the simple, straightforward option of crushing them utterly and instead, inexplicably choose to deploy his weakest weapons/minions against them first, thus allowing the heroes ample opportunity to build up their strength to the point where they become a bona fide threat.
  30. (Corollary from Rule #2 above) If the villain looks monstrous, ferocious or intimidating, it's true form will turn out to be weak, almost comical. If the villain is normal, puny-looking, or handsome, it's true form will turn out to be towering and monstrous.
  31. Comrades-in-arms who fall in battle are mourned by the heroes for a grand total of about three seconds and then callously forgotten about for the rest of the story.
  32. Characters are able to perform or witness acts of tremendous violence, (mutilations, explosions, decapitations, massacres, etc.,) without ever suffering any negative mental repercussions in the form of nightmares, neuroses, psychosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, or anything else of that nature.
  33. The hero shoots an arrow, the tip of which the camera follows right until it enters the forehead of its victim. (a'la Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, LOTR, etc.)
  34. All it takes to make a miraculous recovery from a mortal injury is having an extreme will to live. (Or by having a soulmate/wise old friend/mysterious person with magical healing powers who will play a large role in the up-coming plotline to destroy the villain help you.)
  35. The villain commits a cruel act that's over-the-top in it's senselessness (i.e. killing a messenger who brings bad news, crushing a canary or killing a cherished pet) for no other reason than to show just how evil he truly is.
  36. The Evil Emperor imprisons the hero's girlfriend, dresses her like a skank, offers her all the power and possessions her heart desires, and then is genuinely mystified when she fails to fall for him.
  37. The Evil Empress imprisons the hero, dresses like a skank, offers him her beautiful, voluptuous body to do with as he pleases, and then is genuinely mystified when he fails to fall for her. (As are all the men reading/watching the story...)
  38. Even though all the odds are stacked against him, the (average-minded) hero somehow manages to outwit the (brilliant) villain, simply because the hero is a) on the side of good or b) has someone else doing all the thinking for him or c) when about to die, uses the power of love and life to lift himself up one final time, which is just enough to kill the villain.
  39. Scantily-clad and hatless heroes and heroines are able to walk for miles outdoors under a blazing sun without even the slightest hint of a sunburn or skin damage afterwards.
  40. A story or episode features characters from competing and wildly differing religious belief systems (i.e. biblical figures, figures from Greek and Roman myths) interacting with each other seamlessly and apparently without any theological conflicts.
  41. The story features a character employing some kind of a love potion. This usually turns out to be a Really Bad Idea because:
    • Love potions being used by people with good intentions (who wish to have certain members of the heroes' party fall in love with certain other members, ) invariably wind up being drunk by people they were not intended for,
      AND
    • Love potions being used by the villain/villainess (to win over one of the hero characters) are annoyingly susceptible to being broken by that pesky ol' Power of True Love Thing.
  42. The heroes fight their way to the villain's inner sanctum to find the villain, dressed in somber colors, playing creepy music on a pipe organ.
  43. A character who is killed off is brought back in the lamest way possible by having the same actor who portrayed them play the deceased character's twin, secret love child, alternate persona from another universe, etc.
  44. Have I mentioned either the "Villain employs the hero's evil twin or lookalike impostor against the hero" or the "Hero and Villain switch bodies and the hero's companions don't find out until it's almost too late" clichés yet?
  45. The last day of the year when the magical keyhole to the magical secret passage is able to appear in the side of the mountain, is, by sheer coincidence, the very same day the heroes arrive with the key.
  46. Male characters who are kept in dungeons for several days exhibit no signs of beard growth, even though they may have been chained to a wall and thus, unable to shave themselves. (Same goes for scantily-clad female characters and leg and armpit hair growth.)
  47. Characters absolutely cannot change their clothes or get them dirty unless, of course, it is story related. Addendum: No matter how many times the hero's clothes are
    burned, bloodied, stained, torn, slashed, or otherwise mutilated, by the end of the episode/chapter, the clothes will be as good as new.
  48. Right before the villain is about to be killed by the hero, he pleads for his life. Naturally, the hero takes pity on the villain and spares him, provided he vows to give up his evil ways. (Which he almost never DOES)
  49. The hero will arrive at the last possible second to defeat the dark lord and save everybody.
  50. Grand viziers are ALWAYS evil. Same goes for high priests. Something in the job description probably.
  51. If the storyline features a joust or martial arts tournament, the heroes will wind up entering it (and winning it, in spite of it having been fixed by the villains.)
  52. When the hero wins a contest set up by the villain, he will be denied his prize and/or thrown into jail. (Example: Japanese Final Fantasy 2)
  53. Gunpowder hasn't been invented. (Have you ever noticed how many fantasy stories are set in worlds where nobody has developed gunpowder?)
  54. Magic and technology advance unequally. Magical worlds usually possess ancient and medieval technology. Likewise, in technological worlds, magic tends to play a secondary role at best.
  55. The Dark Lord inspires such terror that no one dares to speak of him by name (at least aloud.)
  56. Any person a main character marries (if they're not a main character themselves) is toast. You can count the time they have left to live in seconds. (Corollary: If two people have sex in a non-hentai anime, one or both of them will be dead by the final frame.)
  57. The forces of good reside in beautiful lands, while lands belonging to the forces of evil are unattractive. (The science-fictional equivalent of this cliché is that benevolent civilizations dwell on beautiful planets, while the planets of malevolent cultures are unattractive.)
  58. The existence of magicians who can easily raze or bypass castle walls doesn't render traditional castles obsolete.
  59. Societies are traditional monarchies and traditional aristocracies.
  60. Royal families include evil relatives who scheme to steal or who have stolen the throne from the rightful rulers, their heirs, or both.
  61. The hero/heroine will find the code to something or other and spend a long time trying to break it, only to find out it was a simple password that didn't deserve the time it took to break, but bears significant importance to the plot.
  62. The story is actually an allegory of some real period which occurred in history (ie: Nazi Germany, Renaissance-Era Venice, Communist Russia, etc.) with characters who are thinly disguised versions of real historical figures.
  63. The villain of a "barbarian fantasy"/sword-and-sorcery story/movie maintains a harem of scantily-clad slave girls.
  64. A villain raping a female hero = a tragic, criminal act which inspires vengeance. A hero raping a female villain = the female villain falls head over heels in love with the hero and spends the rest of the story trying to win him over.
  65. Our world is connected to other dimensions through portals and linking rooms. (Corollary: In fantasy worlds, teleportation is usually based on magical not scientific principles and is used [mostly] as a cheap device to quickly get characters to the next plot point.)
  66. Heroes from our world visit other dimensions and thwart the schemes of resident Evil Overlords. (Corollary to above: Heroes from our world who find themselves in other dimensions usually have at least one member of their party who's seen or read a lot of fantasy stories and who believes themselves savvy as to how their new world actually works.)
  67. Heroes and villains from other dimensions visit our world and decide to turn it into a battlefield for their final conflict (which usually results in the near destruction of our world. Fortunately, the otherworldly visitors usually have the ability to undo the damage they've caused by turning back time or by casting a clean-up spell.)
  68. People who travel into dimensions which are vastly different from their own suffer very little in the way of culture shock, even if the place they came from was a small medieval dirt-hut village and the world they traveled to is an advanced, futuristic, neon-sign and machine-filled cityscape.
  69. In contrast to villains, who often dress in dark or sinister colors, heroes frequently dress in bright but sensible colors.
  70. Monarchies are hereditary. With the possible exception of religious hierarchies, elective monarchies do not exist.
  71. Popular monarchies do not exist. The titles of monarchs are linked to their states instead of their peoples. Likewise, monarchs are regarded as governing well-defined states rather than peoples.
  72. Survivors of a postmodern apocalypse (or people from a futuristic society who crash-land on a primitive world) will revert to a primitive way of life and start speaking like cavemen. (Alternatively, they'll speak normally but selectively mangle the pronunciation of common terms and place names for no good reason other than to prove how "changed" they are.) Items and inventions from the ancient (modern) past will often be treated like sacred relics. (Nuclear missiles will be held in especially high regard and worshipped as sacred totems. At least until they blow up.)
  73. On a post-holocaust Earth, the inhabitants adopt magic instead of science and technology. (Corollary: Commonly on post-holocaust Earths, magic is rationalized as being based on psionics.)
  74. Magic is actually a form of science that has never been systematized in our world.
  75. Fantasy cultures are frequently derived from northern Europe.
  76. Fantasy cultures in Japanese RPG's are also frequently derived from northern Europe (but will have at least one village filled with Asian architecture where everyone looks and dresses Japanese. This village is where all the ninjas, martial arts training monks, and cool ronin samurai warriors live.)
  77. Magic is passed through bloodlines. (This can create castes within magic-user communities where "purebloods" think themselves better than "half-breeds" or "mixed-bloods".)
  78. If a hero has an identical twin or clone, it will invariably turn out to be evil.
  79. If a villain has an identical twin or clone, it will usually also turn out to be evil. (This is especially true if the villain is killed off at the end of one season, and the producers of the show don't want to hire a brand new actor to fill up the "villain" slot in the cast for the next season.)
  80. In the rare event that a character's identical twin or clone isn't evil, they'll usually turn out to be a polar opposite of that character in terms of personality. (This is often done for comedic effect, with the result sometimes being that the character's friends and cohorts come to like the twin even more than they like the character, and are sad to see the twin go...)
  81. It is not unusual for all members of a hero's family to look exactly like the hero. (Even female members will do so it's not unusual for the hero's grandmother to look just like the hero himself wearing a bad granny wig.) Identical cousins are really common, as are identical ancestors or descendants, who look like the hero even down to the way they style their hair!
  82. During the final, climactic fight of the first book/season of a series, a hero will inadvertently discover a power they have that is very scary and that no one else has.
  83. The lands of the hero are suffering a horrible drought that ends the moment the villain is killed.
  84. Somehow or another, no matter how many dangerous fights the heroes get themselves into, they are never hurt or scarred. If they are hurt and scarred they will quickly heal it themselves or it (amazingly) will disappear in the next chapter/episode.
  85. Somehow or another the villain ALWAYS comes back, even if the heroes witness him being killed with their own eyes.
  86. A villain who starts working along with the hero/heroine will always earn their trust, even after all the times the villain almost killed them.
  87. There seems to always be a mysterious tavern...

Van Helsing Rules
Here's a special subset of clichés I like to call the Van Helsing Rules, named after the infamous vampire movie which employed nearly every hackneyed monster movie cliché in the book and which shattered nearly every law of physics and reason...
  • Van Helsing Rule #1: All anti-hero types must dress in black, have mysterious pasts, a gruff demeanor, and the ability to crack witty remarks during the heat of battle. No matter how competent they are, or how many people they manage to save, they'll always find themselves hated by the public and mistrusted by their superiors.
  • Van Helsing Rule #2: If the cool anti-hero gets paired with a sidekick, it'll most likely be a kooky comic-relief gadgeteer who, inexplicably, winds up getting laid more often than he does. Corollary : It is NEVER right when the kooky comic relief gadgeteer winds up getting laid more often than the cool anti-hero. Especially if the cool anti-hero happens to be played by Hugh Jackman.
  • Van Helsing Rule #3: Lower-ranking clergy NEVER take the whole "obeying the ten commandments" and "celibacy" thing very seriously. (In spite of this, they are almost always more trustworthy and compassionate than the Vatican higher-ups...)
  • Van Helsing Rule #4: Cool anti-heroes love their hats and will do anything to keep from losing them.
  • Van Helsing Rule #5: The cooler-looking and "seemingly-more-likely-to-go-out-of-control-and-kill-the-person-wielding-it-than-the-person-it's-aimed-at" a weapon is, the better it works.
  • Van Helsing Rule #6: All crossbows basically behave like machine guns with arrows.
  • Van Helsing Rule #7: High heels and a tight corset are considered acceptable vampire-hunting garb.
  • Van Helsing Rule #8: Powerful supervillains like to keep their friends close, their enemies closer and the one object which is capable of saving the hero and contributing to their own demise in a lightly guarded room located within their own fortress.
  • Van Helsing Rule #9: All unknown viscous fluids are dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.
  • Van Helsing Rule #10: In Eastern Europe, the full moon occurs approximately once every four days.
  • Van Helsing Rule #11: You need never keep track of where you're going in a desperate pitched battle, because ALL you need to do is swing on a rope and/or crash through a window and you'll automatically find yourself at the one place you needed to go to next.
  • Van Helsing Rule #12: The stroke of midnight can, if the plot calls for it, go on for twenty minutes or more.
  • Van Helsing Rule #13: Female characters who fall in love with the cool anti-hero are invariably doomed. (The fact that they were able to kick ass and survive high falls, beatings and monster attacks for the first 98% of the movie is irrelevant. All it will take to dispatch them at the end is a simple stab wound.)
  • Van Helsing Rule #14: Cool, creepy art direction and millions of dollars of special effects cannot make up for a script conceived and written by a severely impaired tube worm...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Acrostic chance

darkcloak.jpgOne writing technique is to juxtapose seemingly unconnected ideas to see what new ideas they spark. While this idea won't write great poetry, it certainly draws together some disconnected ideas. It's a very left-brained (logical, mathy) beginning to end up with something for right-brainers (chaotic, artistic).

Use the title of a book as an acrostic key phrase. That is, write the title vertically. For each letter of the key phrase , find the page number in the book that corresponds to the letter (a=1, b-2, etc.). Scan the page until you find a word that begins with that letter. For the poem line, copy from that word to the end of the line or to the end of the sentence.

Some tips: While it's obvious that x isn't likely to turn up on a page, it was surprising the "d" and "n" took some scanning. Try scanning lines backwards. I tended to start reading ;-) Also most books start on page 2. You can choose a random page for "a".

Here's the raw material I came up with. Surprisingly, the ideas are not totally disconnected. Thought maybe that makes sense since the lines will all come from the first 26 pages of the book and that's when the author establishes the main ideas of the story.
killed you a long time ago
is the woman you loved taking the change in your appearance
lie to yourself more than me
likely to thrive in domestic bliss as I am
it was not a friendly look.
now, unfortunately we were mingling in the living room
glared at his amused face

dark cloak
always had a killer fashion sense
not as rare as it used to be
caught some sort of disease from trying
eye was secure and watched my face

1 a
2 b
3 c
4 d
5 e
6 f
7 g
8 h
9 i
10 j
11 k
12 l
13 m
14 n
15 o
16 p
17 q
18 r
19 s
20 t
21 u
22 v
23 w
24 x
25 y
26 z
This is from 66 Experiments by Charles Bernstein from the Language is a Virus website where there are quite a few writing ideas. (This one is #4.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Erinaceous lamprophony

hedgehog.jpgTwenty real weird words. Use each in a sentence, making up your own meanings. (When you're done, if you want to see the real meanings, click on Comments.)
erinaceous
lamprophony
depone
finnimbrun
floccinaucinihilipilification
inaniloquent
limerance
mesonoxian
mungo
nihilarian
nudiustertian
phenakism
pronk
pulveratricious
rastaquouere
scopperloit
selcouth
tyrotoxism
widdiful
zabernism
(Words from 20 Weird English Words.)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Kate Monk's Onomastikon

ghanawoman.jpgAt Kate Monk's Onomastikon (Dictionary of Names) she has compiled and organized an extensive resource for naming foreign characters: first names, surnames and naming practices from around the world, past and present. Where else will you find 156 Mongolian first names? And 293 Anglo-Saxon names? And a list of not only Russian first names but also nicknames?

While baby name sites will eagerly provide you with a list of foreign names, often nicknames and English versions of the names are mixed in. Kate Monk has provided some well researched lists, originally intended for gamers: America, Ancient World, Africa, Celtic, England (divided into historical periods), Europe, Former Soviet Union, Inida, Middle East, Orient, Pacific.

The Native American and Pacific Islander names are a bit sketchy. And the lists are divided up a little too much (to find all the Russian male names you need to view six different pages: Greek, Latin, Biblical, Slavic, Germanic and Various. The lists were compiled 10 years ago so I suspect page load time was her concern at the time but all in all very useful.

(A few of the links are broken and you'll be directed to a page with some choices. The choices work just fine.)

Here's a few women's names pulled together in a few minutes:
Nyanath Kayra (Sudan)
Ethne Dinneen (Celtic)
Grazia Salutari (Italian)
Tereza Lucescu (Romanian)
Kolbrun "Kolly" Sigurbjornsson (Iceland)
Kifayat Chorakchi (Azerbaijan)
Kavika Revathi (India)
Damla Kazaz (Turkey)
Qori Dashyondon (Mongolia)
Natsuko Shizuma (Japan)
Nyree Rupuma (Maori)
Xetsa Donkor (Ghana)
Fientje Barberie (Netherlands)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Delayed destiny

unclejulius.jpgThis is from the Adopt-a-Plot folder at The National Novel Writing Month boards.

#31: Fantasy parody idea: The Chosen One is an 89 year old guy who's been waiting his whole life to be notified he needs to go out on a quest and save the world. Finally someone shows up at his door to explain what the delay has been. The Old Wizard who was supposed to come to him when he was a teen and give all sorts of Vague Hints about his Grand Destiny, died of a heart attack on the road, and the Evil Overlord decided not to bother taking over the world this year because of financial problems. Well, the Chosen One is pretty pissed off that he never got to save the world like he was supposed to, so he hires some people to put the world in danger and set up a situation so he can go off on the quest nevertheless and save the world and thus fulfill his Grand Destiny. Needless to say, things start going wrong from the get-go. What happens and how is up to you. -- Tupwen

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Conflicted

startrek.jpgWhile conflict makes the story run, before conflict your character needs a passionate yearning to be conflicted about.

Brainstorm some passionate yearnings. Don't worry if they're cliche. It's the passion your character will bring to that yearning that will set it apart. (The yearning for a husband or wife has certainly fueled plenty of stories!)

After you're done brainstorming, pick your favorite yearnings then brainstorm some reasons why your character wants that. Make it personal and make them want it passionately.

Here's some examples if you're having trouble getting started:
  • To protect a brother. Why? Younger or older? How and why is the brother in danger? What did he do? What events made the siblings especially close?
  • To be the first to Mars. Why? To achieve something no one else has? Passionate love of Star Trek? Return home?
  • To win the dragon riding tournament. Why? Why dragons? Why this particular tournament? To prove something to someone or self? To honor an ancestor or mentor? To prove something to the dragon(s)?
  • To end the war. Why? Ancestral home is threatened? Brother is on the other side and it's only a matter of time before character will have to kill him? The cost to loved ones has been too high?
  • To find peace and quiet. Why? Stressful life? Surrounded by grasping people? Surrounded by idiots?
  • To regain family treasure. Why? Awaken inherited powers? Crush the power of the rival who stole it? Rebuild family that was destroyed?
Look over your list and circle your favorites. Keep asking why for the ones that intrigue you to gain greater depth for the characters and the problem and the world.

Pick your very favorite. Brainstorm a list of 25 obstacles to place between the character and their yearning. (The first few that come out will probably be cliche. That's okay. Sometimes you need to run the tap first until the water is clear :-) The conflict can be personal (fear, being handicapped, family opposes) or external (aliens invade, it rains).

This could be the foundation for your NaNoWriMo project coming up in November. Choose one or a few of the yearnings and conflicts that feel like they could be in the same story. Put them together to see what happens.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Massive list of character traits and flaws

eccentric.jpgHere's an extensive list of character traits. You can pick a couple or three to form the basis of a character. Then create a character with the opposite traits to form a friend, enemy, sibling, mentor ... ?

While there's a great deal to be said about nature forming our characters, it's a lot more interesting for a story if there's a background reason! :-) So ask yourself why the character developed those traits. What happened in the past, recent or childhood, that moved them in that direction. And perhaps they display the trait only in limited contexts. A low energy character could be forceful when the one thing he cares about is threatened. A frugal character could have a massive collection of manga. Someone could dole out their compassion just to those who are trying hard and have little sympathy for those who are letting themselves be weighed down.

Pick all from one list or all from different lists or mix them up and choose completely randomly. There are plenty of positive traits that aren't normally paired together and could make for interesting characters, for example, cultured and easy going, or inept and cocky, or feisty and dainty so it isn't necessary to mix them up.

If you love lists, there's another list: Cattell's 16 Personality Factors for writers Again, feel free to pick all "Less" or all "More" factors since shy and practical, or sensitive and lively, or competitive and solitary aren't usual combinations but could make for some nicely complex characters when you dig into their lives and figure out why they've become who they are.

Positive traits
Accommodating
Accomplished
Adaptable
Adventurous
Affectionate
Agreeable
Amusing
Appreciative
Approachable
Articulate
Artistic
Audacious
Authoritative
Bewitching
Brave
Calming
Carefree
Careful
Caring
Charismatic
Charming
Chaste
Cheerful
Classy
Compassionate
Composed
Confident
Congenial
Conscientious
Considerate
Consistent
Content
Cooperative
Courageous
Creative
Cultured
Curious
Dainty
Debonair
Decent
Determined
Dignified
Disciplined
Easy-going
Educated
Empathetic
Energetic
Enthusiastic
Exuberant
Faithful
Feisty
Flexible
Focused
Forgiving
Frank
Friendly
Frugal
Fun-loving
Funny
Gentle
Glamorous
Good-natured
Graceful
Gracious
Gregarious
Hard-working
Helpful
Honest
Honorable
Hopeful
Hospitable
Imaginative
Impeccable
Informed
Inquisitive
Insightful
Insouciant
Intellectual
Intelligent
Introspective
Intuitive
Inventive
Joyful
Kind
Knowledgeable
Logical
Lovable
Loving
Loyal
Mature
Merciful
Modest
Noble
Observant
Open-minded
Optimistic
Organized
Outgoing
Outspoken
Passionate
Patient
Perceptive
Persistent
Pert
Philanthropic
Polite
Practical
Prosaic
Quirky
Rational
Reliable
Resilient
Respectful
Responsible
Romantic
Saintly
Savvy
Selfless
Sensual
Serene
Serious
Sincere
Smart
Spiritual
Supportive
Sweet
Sympathetic
Tactful
Thoughtful
Thrifty
Tireless
Tolerant
Trusting
Unassuming
Virtuous
Vivacious
Well-groomed
Wholesome

Depends on the context whether they're positive or negative
Aggressive
Ambitious
Aristocratic
Assertive
Boisterous
Brazen
Busy
Conservative
Conventional
Daring
Delicate
Direct
Dramatic
Eccentric
Elusive
Enigmatic
Exotic
Fearless
Flamboyant
Flirtatious
Gullible
Holy
Humble
Idiosyncratic
Impulsive
Independent
Innocent
Irreverent
Liberal
Loner
Macho
Mannerly
Meticulous
Nonchalant
Nostalgic
Obedient
Obsessive
Opportunistic
Patriotic
Persuasive
Pious
Private
Proud
Quiet
Religious
Sensitive
Sentimental
Soft-spoken
Subtle
Talkative
Tough
Unconventional
Uninhibited
Unselfish
Wild
Worldly
Zany
Zealous

Generally negative descriptors, but not aspects that make you want to keep your distance
Absent-minded
Accident-prone
Aloof
Anxious
Apathetic
Apologetic
Apprehensive
Bewildered
Clumsy
Cocky
Compliant
Compulsive
Confused
Crafty
Cranky
Cunning
Cynical
Daffy
Defiant
Demanding
Detached
Disorganized
Distant
Distraught
Disagreeable
Dowdy
Downtrodden
Dull
Dumb
Emotional
Excessive
Excitable
Extravagant
Fanatical
Fatalistic
Finicky
Flippant
Flustered
Fragile
Frigid
Frustrated
Gaudy
Gloomy
Grandiose
Haggard
Hesitant
Hysterical
Ignorant
Immature
Immodest
Impatient
Impudent
Incoherent
Incompetent
Inconsiderate
Indecisive
Indifferent
Indiscreet
Inept
Infantile
Inhibited
Insecure
Insensitive
Insulting
Intimidating
Introverted
Irresponsible
Irritable
Jealous
Lazy
Lethargic
Materialistic
Melodramatic
Messy
Miserly
Moody
Naive
Neurotic
Non-committing
Opinionated
Ornery
Paranoid
Passive
Pessimistic
Petty
Presumptuous
Pretentious
Prim
Pushy
Rebellious
Reclusive
Remote
Resentful
Reserved
Righteous
Rowdy
Rude
Sarcastic
Sassy
Self-absorbed
Self-conscious
Self-effacing
Self-righteous
Senile
Shallow
Sheepish
Shy
Silent
Silly
Simple
Sloppy
Sluggish
Snobby
Spiteful
Squeamish
Stern
Stingy
Stoical
Straight-laced
Strict
Stubborn
Submissive
Surly
Suspicious
Temperamental
Tense
Tentative
Timid
Trivial
Unclean
Uncommunicative
Uneasy
Unmotivated
Unreasonable
Verbose
Vulnerable
Withdrawn

Quite negative, people you want to have as little contact with as possible
Abrasive
Angry
Annoying
Antisocial
Argumentative
Arrogant
Belligerent
Bossy
Calculating
Callous
Conceited
Condescending
Controlling
Cowardly
Critical
Crude
Deceitful
Despicable
Disgusting
Dogmatic
Domineering
Egocentric
Egotistic
Embittered
Greedy
Grotesque
Hypocritical
Intolerant
Judgmental
Lascivious
Lewd
Maniacal
Manipulative
Mean
Nasty
Obnoxious
Obscene
Overbearing
Perverted
Pompous
Profane
Promiscuous
Selfish
Sleazy
Sneaky
Unapproachable
Unscrupulous
Vain
Vindictive
Vulgar

Pretty darn evil
Abusive
Cruel
Dishonest
Hateful
Inhumane
Masochistic
Psychopathic
Psychotic
Ruthless
Sadistic
Traitorous
Tyrannical
Vengeful
Wicked

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Chance meeting

longhair.jpgPrint out the three lists below: profession, trait and meeting. Cut them up and put them in three separate piles. Draw two each from the first two pairing a trait with a profession. (The more contrasting the better.) Feel free to use a profession as a trait. (It could be a hobby.) Then draw a slip from the third pile. That's how they meet. Write what ensues.
Bounty hunter
Healer
Spy
Bodyguard
Gladiator
Linguist
Professor
Lawyer
Private Investigator
Astrologist
Actor
Book dealer
University student
Reporter
Diplomat
Tour guide
Jeweler
Anthropologist

Bird enthusiast
Night person
Scarred
Tattooed
Cultured
Racially mixed
Extremely long hair
Cat lover
Book lover
Martial artist
Talkative
Spiritual
Cooking enthusiast
Musical
Large family
Dresses uniquely
Passionate about a particular food
Gardener
Klutz

Next to each other while traveling
Chance meeting
Neighbors
Introduced by family
Enemies
One hires or works, or has to visit the other
Meet at wedding
Held hostage together
Childhood friends who meet again after years
One saves the other from something
Both want to buy the last of the same thing
Meet at a bar or club
Take a class together
Blind date
Adapted from Charlotte Dillon's Writing Prompts.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rejiggered poetry

dragon.jpgCut up the words in a poem and rearrange them into a new poem. Here's one but feel free to choose any poem!
Dragons
Anita Wilson

Dragons flying in the sky
Swooping down and soaring high
Mighty wings, so awe inspiring
Always moving, never tiring

Outlined against a yellow sun
Giant shadows, having fun
Rising, diving, again repeating
In a game of dragons, meeting

Jeweled bodies in the light
A golden wingspan, shining bright
Powerful tails in joy entwining
Playing, while the sun is shining

Oh, how wondrous is this sight
When great dragons show delight

(From Writers Digest.com)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Gallery of Misused "Quotes"

RoadWorkAhead.jpgThe Gallery of Misused Quotes

Just for grins :-) If you can't get enough, click on Permanent Collection for the "archives". Here's a "selection":

"real" bacon bits

Please don't take large buckets of "ice" from this machine. Go to the other machine in the back.

Please "shower" before entering the pool.

ROAD "WORK" AHEAD

All pancakes are served with "whipped" butter.

If you need help finding something, one of our "friendly" associates will be happy to help you.

"fresh" fruit

Only "2" children allowed in the shop at any time.

Please sign "in."

"No dogs" Permitted in Terminal

Please ring "bell" for service.

Corn, fried potatoes, "peas" and green beans.
(They also list cottage cheese and macaroni and cheese as vegetables.)
(Clearly that list should be labeled "vegetables" of the day.)

Just responding to let you know that a "human" reads each and every comment to BizRate.com!

"SHREDDED" CHEESE

"Watch" for pedestrians
(As long as you look like you're watching that'll do.)

"OAK" FIREWOOD FOR SALE
(It's probably that cheap oak veneer firewood.)

Every greeting card that I receive from my Aunt Joan and Uncle Bruce is addressed to "John" and signed, "Aunt Joan & Uncle Bruce."
(What do they think my real name is? And who are the cards really from?)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Frairy's Fairy Ferry

fairy_boat.jpgCome up with ship and boat names for each letter of the alphabet. The ships can be anything: land or water or air or space craft, from dinghies to cruisers.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Too much of a good thing

miori.jpgHere's the beginning. Take it from there.

Miori could not remember a time when a spirit had not been with her. Miori's mother said the first spirit, Denee, had appeared when Miori was a baby, hovering at the corners of whatever room young Miori was in. Actually Denee had been a welcome sign since it meant that Miori had The Gift. The problem, though, was that as Miori grew more and more spirits were drawn to her. Eventually her collection of nearly twenty spirits had become such an oddity that it was whispered about in hushed nervous tones in the community. Fortunately they were rarely all present at once but even her usual half dozen when one was remarkable was cause for talk. Miori knew her mother had not been pleased though she had never said anything.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Worth1000

watermelon_window.jpgPictures may be worth 1000 words but apparently stories are only worth 800, give or take.

The Worth1000 site sponsors Photoshop, photography and multimedia challenges. But they have also been sponsoring writing (including poetry) challenges for quite a few years. Enter the current contests or use some of the ideas as writing prompts.

Main writing challenge page with current and most recent contests are on the Text Contests home page, and an rchive of all writing challenges is in the directory. (On the directory page, the tabs at the right list the other challenges. The links in the top purple bar will filter them by type. The Head to Head contests are forum members challenging each other.)

If you go to check out the writing challenges, do check out the visual challenges also. (There's also a huge archive in the gallery. Some of them are truly astounding (and will make you question any fantastic digital photo you see in the future! ;-) If you're still on dialup, the pages can be an exercise in patience: go make some tea, do some writing challenges, build the Eiffel Tower out of paperclips then come back and be amazed. :-)

Current challenges (ending September 8):

Alien Invasion: Alien invasion! Large scale or small, just before, during, or immediately after; anything goes, but the basic premise is alien(s) have attacked (a town, city, state/province, country, whole planet...) (900 words)

Poetry - Rondeau: A Rondeau is a French form, 15 lines long, consisting of three stanzas: a quintet (five lines), a quatrain (four lines), and a sestet (six lines) with a rhyme scheme as follows: aabba aabR aabbaR. Lines 9 and 15 are short - a refrain (R) consisting of a phrase taken from line one. The other lines are longer (but all of the same metrical length).

A small sampling of recent challenges:

Pet Personals 2: "Loving home needed.": We've done Pet Personals but not like this. In this contest you are going to write a Personal ad from the perspective of a Pet, but they aren't seeking a mate, they are seeking an owner. The rules of the game are thus: Write a personal ad, from the perspective of a pet looking for an owner. Humor is key in this contest. (60 words)

Fish Stories: Tell a story about an oridinary thing, but make it sound extraordinary with exaggerations, and downright lies. (800 words)

Sleep Deprivation: Your character has gone without sleep for an extended period of time. How do they react to what is going on around them? Are they falling asleep every two minutes? Cold shower? Blaring radio? Window rolled down? What is your character doing? The rules of the game are thus: Write a story where the main character hasn't had any sleep for an extended period of time. The story should rely heavily on the lack of sleep factor. (800 words)

Unusual Job With Application: The rules of the game are thus: Create a job that no one would apply for and then create a person who would fit the job perfectly.(Write their application letter.) 1) Create the job(brief description of the job is acceptable for this contest.) 2) Write application letter(Why they think they are the best person for the job.) (500 words)

Writer's Block: What happens when writer's block shows up? The rules of the game are thus: Write an agonizing account of a writer afflicted with the block, his fruitless attempts to circumvent it, his idea process, the ridiculous derailed trains of thought. (800 words)

Past to Future: Isaac Asimov wrote a story once where someone brought Shakespeare to the future and enrolled him in a college course on Shakespeare. He flunked. What would happen if you were to take people from the past and show them the results, implications, uses, etc... of their inventions or ideas? The rules of the game are thus: Write a story where you take an inventor from the past(or present) and bring them to the present(or forward to the future). What is their experience in the new environment? Do they have new inventions to share or are they totally lost and confused by technology? (800 words)

Opening Paragraphs: Horror 3: If you want to get to page two of any story, you've got to get the reader interested on page 1. In this contest, you'll do just that. Hook the reader with the scariest opening paragraphs you can conjure up in 666 words. Set the tone, create the mood, make people shudder with fear and beg for more. Remember, these are only the opening paragraphs, so leave the readers hanging. (666)

Text Re-visibles 5: Like a reverse take on the old Mad Lib books of my misspent youth, I'm giving you bits of a headline and key ingredients to a humorous news brief. Your job, should you choose to accept it (or are able to follow along) will be to fill in the blanks, make the invisibles, revisible. Got it? Headline segment: While ______ ______ ______ ______ the ______ _______ That's the headline of your news story - six words missing, they can be anything you want (within the guidelines). Complete the headline, and then write the brief story that follows. But wait, there's a catch... you must include the following words in your news brief ... assuming, tutorial, European cup. (500 words)

Notice of Intent: "You forgot the mustard on my hotdog!" Write a bizarre letter to a person explaining to them that you're suing them and outline the reasons for taking action and what you want in return e.g. suing a neighbour for emotional distress linked to him having a better car than you. The rules of the game are thus:Write a bizarre letter to a person explaining to them that you're suing them and outline the reasons for taking action, and what you want in return e.g. suing a neighbour for emotional distress linked to him having a better car than you. (250 words)

Note: you can enter all the challenges for free but you can't win "credits" unless you pay the entry fee (5-10 credits). This was the site's owner's way of raising money for $5000/year server costs without discouraging people from entering. You can read more about it at Why the new format?

(The site is work and child friendly. There are a few challenges that have more mature content but they're clearly marked with a page that says "Mature Content Warning" so you can't stumble on them accidently.)

Top 10 tabloid headlines for September 2007

wwn.jpgFirst of the month and here's the Top 10 Tabloid Headlines from September 2005 since the City Newstand list is on hiatus.

From the City Newstand in Chicago, for writing prompts or just for fun :-)

Top Ten Tabloid Headlines from September 2005
  1. MAN-HORSES THREATEN THE WORLD! — WWN
  2. Bush thrilled to be reading at 6th grade level AND IT'S ABOUT TIME! — WWN
  3. ORIGIN OF APATHY DISCOVERED, BUT NOBODY CARES! — WWN
  4. CHICKENS EAT FARMER — WWN
  5. Leprechaun ejected by casino — HE'S TOO LUCKY! — WWN
  6. BOMB-SNIFFING ELEPHANTS STOMP OUT TROUBLE — WWN
  7. NIGHT WATCHMAN SUES OVER WORKING NIGHTS! — WWN
  8. LOUD ROCK SHOW MAKES TEEN'S HEAD EXPLODE! — WWN
  9. RHODE ISLAND TO BAN BABY-TALK TO DOGS! — WWN
  10. CUBS BOOST WORLD SERIES HOPES WITH . . . HOLY WATER! — SUN